After the WRC-15: Looking Ahead

Gonzalo de Dios, Associate General Counsel

Last November, thousands of delegates from 162 countries gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, for the quadrennial World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC). Organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the WRC reviews and revises the international treaty governing the use of radio-frequency spectrum as well as geostationary and non-geostationary satellite orbits.

During the month-long conference, delegates considered more than 40 topics related to frequency allocation and the sharing of spectrum, ranging from the protection of search and rescue beacons to allocation of amateur radio frequencies.

Of primary concern to Intelsat and our customers was the question of C-band spectrum rights, which the mobile industry wanted reallocated from satellite. Thanks in large part to our customers lobbying regulators around the world to have satellite spectrum recognized as essential, satellite C-band was protected as a result of the WRC-15. In a great show of industry collaboration, satellite providers joined together for a common cause in protecting satellite C-band.

However, the WRC-15 revealed an issue that the broader telecommunications ecosystem must address before the WRC-19.

The fact is that global connectivity is ever more complicated, and compatibility between and among services is growing increasingly vital. Nations around the world have promised to connect the unconnected – even in the most remote regions – and demand for mobility and broadband services is skyrocketing. These factors are driving new applications – with satellite essential to the solutions – and shaping the ongoing global discussion on spectrum.  Addressing these future service demands and broadband connectivity requirements around the world will necessitate all parts of the emerging communications ecosystem to work together.

Despite the satellite industry joining together for a common cause, the decisions at WRC-15 highlight the challenge of global harmonization of spectrum for new services, particularly when there is incompatibility between services.  In order to strike a reasonable balance, and guarantee protection of mission-critical satellite services, the differing segments of the telecommunications industry – mobile, fixed and satellite – must collaborate to develop solutions that ensure and promote global connectivity.

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